A Minor Mystery Solved

A more appropriate title for this post might have been “The Many Wives of James Casbon.” However, I’ll stick with the current title because it was finding the answer to the “minor mystery” that prompted me to write the post.

This is a cautionary tale. The caution is that one should be very careful about trusting “facts” that are listed in online family trees unless the evidence supporting those facts is documented and credible. In this case, the facts in question are the identities of the women who were married to James Casbon (~1813–1884).

When I did a search on Ancestry for James, listing his parents as Isaac and Susannah (Howes) Casbon, I found that he was included in 66 family trees. Six different women were named as his wives in these trees. Some trees only listed one of them while others listed up to five. A few of the trees simply said “unknown spouse”—a safe and reasonable approach. Several of the trees were private, meaning the names of James’s wives could not be viewed. Here are the names of the women, in order of frequency, in those trees I was able to view.

Elizabeth Waller             26 trees
Mary Cooper                   17 trees
Mary Payne                       7 trees
Mary Harper                     5 trees
Mary Jackson                    5 trees
Ann Mitch                         5 trees

How many of these women did James actually marry and which ones? I can say with confidence that only three marriages have been documented. I have copies or extracts of the marriage records of James to Elizabeth Waller in 1835,[1] Mary Jackson in 1866,[2] and Mary Payne in 1876.[3] There is no evidence that James married Mary Cooper, Mary Harper, or Ann Mitch. In the family trees where they are listed, no sources are provided other than other family trees. One could posit that James married another woman in the interval between Elizabeth’s death in 1852 and his marriage to Mary Jackson in 1866, but there are no records to support this (and no children born during this time listing James as the father).

Census and birth/baptism records show that all of James’s children were born to either Elizabeth Waller or Mary Jackson. (Alice Casbon’s birth in 1871 is not registered but given that it occurred just one month after the arrival of James and Mary in America, there is no reason to believe that anyone besides Mary Jackson was her mother.)

The marriage of record of James Casbon to Elizabeth Waller at Meldreth, Cambridgeshire, 25 July 1835; Meldreth parish records (Click on image to enlarge)
The marriage record of James Casbon and Mary Payne, Porter County, Indiana, 15 January 1876; Porter County Public Library (Click on image to enlarge)

So how did these other women come to be listed as James’s wives? There are several possible reasons. In the case of Ann Mitch, it is a matter of mistaken identity. There were two men named James Casbon in the early 1800s, both born in Meldreth, Cambridgeshire. One was born 7 September 1806.[4] He was the first cousin of the James of this post. The elder James married Ann Hitch (whose name has been incorrectly transcribed as Mitch in both Ancestry and FamilySearch) at Steeple Morden, Cambridgeshire on 15 December
1827.[5] Ann died in 1833 after bearing James one child (Alfred Hitch Casbon). It can be easy to make mistakes in family trees when two people have the same name. Although the younger James would have been only about 14 years old when the marriage to Ann Hitch occurred, some family historians have gotten around this discrepancy by assuming that there was only one man named James. However, this is not supported by later census records.

The case of Mary Cooper is harder to explain. James’s older brother William married a woman named Mary Cooper in 1829.[6] My best guess is that the name of William’s wife was incorrectly attached to James in a family tree and the incorrect information was passed on to others.

That brings me to Mary Harper. Where did the name come from? This was the minor mystery I learned the answer to this week.

I was updating some of my documentation and came upon the marriage license application of James’s and Mary (Jackson’s) daughter Alice Hannah Casbon to her second husband, Charles Hicks. Alice and Charles applied for the license at Starke County, Indiana on 4 March 1936 and were married the same day.[7] The application requests the names of the bride and groom’s parents. Alice wrote “Mary Harper” as her mother’s maiden name.

The marriage license application of Alice (Casbon) Edwards to Charles Hicks, 4 March 1936, Starke County, Indiana; FamilySearch (Click on image to enlarge)

This naturally raises the question: Wouldn’t Alice know her own mother’s name? In fact, there is good reason for her not to. Her mother died before Alice was 5 years old, and probably much earlier than that. (The date of Mary (Jackson’s) death is not recorded). Her father, James, died when Alice was 13. Mary Payne, her stepmother, might not have known the correct maiden name. Alice might have been told incorrectly that her mother’s surname was Harper or she might have misremembered what she was told.

At any rate, it appears that Alice herself was the source of the misinformation that was included later in family trees.

As I said earlier, one must be very careful about accepting genealogical “facts” at face value. Once incorrect information is made available in an online family tree, others might copy it to their own tree and it takes on a life of its own. A useful rule of thumb is to carefully review the source attributed to any “fact” in an online tree. If there are no sources attached or the only source is another family tree, one should not accept the fact as proven unless more reliable sources can be found.

Unfortunately, I must confess that I am one of the guilty parties here. I saw the names of Mary Cooper and Mary Harper in family trees many years ago and included them in my own tree. I even included them as possible wives in my first blog post about James in 2016. When I posted my tree to Ancestry I was still a relative beginner at genealogy and did not yet understand the need for careful source documentation or how easily misinformation could be spread. I kept the names in my tree for much longer than I should have after realizing that I had no evidence to support them. It’s likely that others copied the information from my tree and perpetuated the misinformation. I am much more diligent now.


[1] Cambridgeshire, England, Meldreth Parish, Register of marriages (1813–1867), p. 34, no. 100, 25 Jul 1835; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 29 August 2017), image 363 of 699; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 8.
[2] “Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952,” PDF extract, Cambridge Family History Society (https://www.cfhs.org.uk/tokens/tokpub.cfm : downloaded 2 September 2017), >Casben >Stretham >Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952, 3 Nov 1866; citing Stretham (Cambridgeshire) parish records.
[3] Indiana, Porter County, Marriage Record, vol. 4 [Sep 1871-Jan 1875], p. 348, 8 Jan 1876; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/005014495?cat=608739 : accessed 8 Apr 2020) > Film # 005014494 >image 693 of 928.
[4] Cambridgeshire, England, Meldreth Parish, Register of baptisms (1806–1812), baptisms 1807; accessed as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 28 April 2017), image 137; citing FHL microfilm 1,040,542, item 3.
[5] “England Marriages, 1538–1973 ,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:N2QC-7QV : accessed 19 October 2015), James Casbon and Ann Mitch, 15 Dec 1827; citing FHL microfilm 990,377.
[6] Cambridgeshire, England Melbourne Parish, Bishop’s transcripts for Melbourne, 1599-1847, (marriages beginning 1814) unnumbered page, no. 160, Wm Casbon & Mary Cooper, 14 Mar 1829; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007672882?cat=1109075 : accessed 12 Jul 2016) >image 529 of 682; citing FHL microfilm 2,358,010, item 2.
[7] Indiana, Starke County, marriage records, v. 10 (June 1934-January 1937), pp. 392–3, marriage license application; imaged in ” Marriage records, 1850-1957″, browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007742312?cat=574765 : accessed 27 Mar 19) > image 392 of 716; citing FHL film 2447544, item 3.

The Casbon Family Reunion, October 1901, Valparaiso, Indiana

Casbon family reunion 24 October 1901; author’s collection (Please! Click on image to enlarge and see names)

I’ve had this photograph for so long that I don’t remember where or who it came from. I believe I was given a copy sometime in the 1990s when I was just starting my genealogy research. Many of today’s Casbons have seen a version of the photo because it serves as the cover image for the “Casbon Family” Facebook group. Although I’ve used it in a previous post and in my book, I have never written about the photograph in detail or given it the attention that it deserves.

The picture is a treasure. A lot of old photos don’t have names of the subjects written in. I was very lucky that my version of the photo came with a separate “key” that provided all the names. I used the key to add labels to the original photograph. It’s always nice to be able to put a face to a name, but how often can you put 36 faces to 36 names?

This is the only photograph I know of that shows all of Thomas Casbon’s (1803–1888) living children—Sylvester, Charles, Jesse, and Emma—together. Mary Ann, the oldest daughter, passed away in 1890. All of them, except for Emma, were born in England. Likewise, Amos, the son of Thomas’s brother James (~1813–1884), was born in England.

The picture gives us a glimpse into how people lived at the turn of the twentieth century. We can see how they dressed and what a typical house in the Midwest looked like. We can even see that bicycles haven’t changed that much in 120 years! (Woodie Marrell looks pretty proud of his bicycle!)

I’m especially lucky because the event captured in the photograph was reported in the local newspaper.

Photocopy of an article from The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Messenger, 31 October 1901; courtesy of Ilaine Church
(I think)

The Casbon family had a reunion at the home of Hida Church in this city Thursday. A sumptuous dinner and a pleasant social time marked the affair. The guests were: Sylvester Casbon and family; Charles Casbon and family; Jesse Casbon and family; Mrs. M. [Emma] Rigg, of Iowa; Lawrence Casbon and family, of South Bend; John Sands [Sams] and family, of Boone Grove; Lawrence Casbon and family, of Boone Grove; John [Thomas] Casbon, of Deep River; Charles Casbon, Jr. [son of Sylvester, therefore not Charles junior], of Valparaiso; Myron Dayton and wife; Mrs. Mary Casbon [widow of James] and John Merrill and family.

The attendees of the reunion included most of the living descendants of Thomas and James Casbon, who emigrated to the United States with their families in 1846 and 1870, respectively. To me, the photograph is a testimony to the brothers’ determination and a visual confirmation of the family’s growth and prosperity since coming to America.

I’ve created a diagram showing how most of the attendees were related. It is color coded by generation. Attendees are indicated by bold-face type. Several deceased individuals, including Thomas and James, as well as former wives, are listed in the diagram in order to make the lines of descent clear. Their names are printed in italics.

A diagram showing those descendants of Thomas and James Casbon who attended the October 1901 reunion (Click on image to enlarge)

Also included in the photograph but not the descendants of Thomas or James Casbon are Woodie (or Woody) and Susie Marrell, the children of John Marrell, who is mentioned in the news article, the brother of Mary Marrell Casbon.

There are also several notable absences from the photograph. George W. Casbon, Sylvester’s youngest son, who was raised by his aunt Emma (Casbon) and uncle Robert N. Rigg, was living in Iowa. Note that Emma was present at the reunion. Charles Parkfield Casbon’s wife, Julia (Bidwell), is not in the photo, even though the news article says that Charles “Jr.” was there with his family. Julia would have been almost eight months pregnant with their first child, Herman, at the time. Three of Jesse Casbon’s daughters—Anna, Edna, and Lillian—were not there. Anna was married and living in Wisconsin; I don’t know why the other two were absent. Finally, Amos Casbon’s two sisters, Margaret (“Maggie”) and Alice, were not there. Maggie was married and living nearby but was possibly estranged from the others. Alice was also married and living nearby.

The reunion was held at the home of “Hida”—Thomas Hiram Church, Jr.—and his wife, Lodema (Casbon). The 1900 census tells us that Hida and Lodema lived at 5 East Elm Street in Valparaiso.[1] The streets were later renumbered, and this house can now be seen at 105 Elm Street.

The house at 105 Elm Street, Valparaiso, Indiana; courtesy of Ilaine Church (Click on image to enlarge)

Aside from no longer having a covered front porch, the facade of the house has changed little since 1901.

As separate branches of the family grew and dispersed, the tradition of reunions dwindled. However, since both Sylvester and Amos married Aylesworth girls, their descendants continued to attend the annual Aylesworth reunions in Porter County, Indiana. My father remembers attending these. These reunions still occur the first weekend in August every year (except this one, thanks to COVID-19). In recent years, Casbon reunions were started up again, hosted by the late Michael J. Casbon. I was fortunate to attend the most recent one of these in 2017.


[1] 1900 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, ED 81, sheet 9A; imaged as “”United States Census, 1900,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6QNS-WRP?i=16 : accessed 12 Apr 2017) >Indiana >Porter >ED 81 Center Township Valparaiso city Ward 1 >image 17 of 31; citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 398.

Occupations

The 19th century was a time of tremendous social and economic change in England. The industrial revolution and growth of the railroads created economic growth, new job opportunities, and shifted segments of the population from their traditional rural homelands to the cities.

How did this affect our English Casbon ancestors? We can gain some insight through the review of census data. Beginning in 1841, roughly the beginning of the Victoria era, census reports listed the place of residence and occupations of household members. When combined with genealogical data, these reports can provide insight into how the changes of the 19th century affected multiple generations of family members.   

Hence, today’s post is a bit of a “science project.” I have compiled the occupations and locations of Casbon family members from 1841 through 1891. These are separated into family groups which are further subdivided by generation.

In the early 1800s, there were two main family groups with the Casbon surname or its antecedents (such as Casbel, Casburn, etc.). One of these families arose in Littleport, Cambridgeshire, but over the course of a generation became based in Peterborough, Northamptonshire (now Cambridgeshire). I refer to these as the Peterborough Casbons. Their common ancestor was Thomas Casbon, born about 1776 in Littleport and died near St. Ives, Huntingdonshire in 1855.

The second group arose in the rural area south of Cambridge and became associated with the village of Meldreth. This family group was larger than the Peterborough Casbons and all were descended from Thomas Casbon, who was born at Meldreth in 1743 and died there in 1799. I have divided the Meldreth group into three subgroups, corresponding to the offspring of three of James’s sons. The first-generation members of each of these subgroups were first cousins to those in the other two groups.

A third family group named Casbon sprung up in Chatteris, Cambridgeshire in the mid-1800s. They were descended from John Casburn, who was born about 1818 and died in 1848 (but does not appear in the 1841 census). This family group lived predominantly in Chatteris throughout the 19th century and eventually died out in the mid 20th century due to the lack of male heirs. Because John’s children were born in the 1840s, their occupations were first listed in the 1871 census.

I have not been able to connect any of these three major family groups together through genealogy records.

For this project, I created a spreadsheet for each group or subgroup showing those family members whose occupations were recorded in the 1841–1891 censuses. The family members are separated by generation; their occupations and places of residence are listed by census year. Thus, it is possible to see how a given individual’s place of residence and occupation changed over subsequent census years. A brief analysis and commentary follow each spreadsheet.

Peterborough Group

(Click on image to enlarge) Extracted census data for four generations of Peterborough Casbons; direct descendants are listed underneath their parents in the next generation; a wife, Jane (Cooper), is listed underneath her husband; occupations are listed as found in the census; some additional information is listed to explain why census data is not given

What is most apparent in this group is the strong family tradition of gardening and related occupations across all four generations. The only exceptions to this tradition in the males are John Casbon (1863), who was listed as a grocer in 1891, and Charles Casbon (1866—see below).

The term “gardener” is a bit ambiguous in the census listings. In one sense, a gardener might be little more than a servant or labourer [British spelling intentional], employed by a landowner to tend his grounds. However, the term was also applied to self-employed men who ran commercial nurseries and sold bedding plants, trees, and shrubs to others. There is abundant evidence that Thomas (1807) and his descendants were the latter kind of gardener, but it is unknown how the term applied to Thomas (1776).

Of the women, two Sarahs (1834 and 1865), worked as domestic servants before getting married. Elizabeth (1861) worked as a dressmaker in 1881, but we know from other sources that she later served as a domestic servant.

Emily (Cantrill—1846) and her son Charles Casbon (1866) deserve special mention. Emily was either divorced or separated from her husband, Thomas, and moved to her parents’ home in London, along with their two children. I haven’t been able to find a description of her occupation, “hair draper,” but I suspect it is another term for hair stylist. Her move to London probably opened the door for her son, Charles, to have such a unique occupation—“Photographic Artist”—compared to the other men in this group.

Meldreth Group 1

(Click on image to enlarge) Extracted census data for three generations of Meldreth Group 1

Jane (1803) and William (1805) were both children of John and Martha (Wagstaff) Casbon. Jane was “crippled from birth” (1871 census) and listed as a “straw plaiter” in the 1851 census. William was an agricultural labourer for his entire life. His three sons left Meldreth, with two settling in parts of London and one settling a little further south in Croydon. John (1843) had a criminal record and worked as a labourer of one sort or another his entire life. I’m assuming that his occupation of gardener in 1881 refers to the working-class meaning of the term.

William’s sons Reuben (1847) and Samuel (1851) both spent some time working for railways. Their occupations reflect the diversity of jobs in urban locations compared what would have been available Meldreth. Although still members of the working class, Reuben and Samuel were probably able to maintain a higher standard of living than their father. Note Samuel’s first occupation as a coprolite digger. This reflects a short-term economic “boom” when coprolite was mined for fertilizer in the area surrounding Meldreth.

William’s female descendants all entered into various forms of domestic service, probably the most common employment for girls from working class families.

Meldreth Group 2

(Click on image to enlarge) Extracted census data for three generations of Meldreth Group 2

James (1806) was the son of James and Mary (Howse or Howes) Casbon. In some records he is referred to as James Howse or James Itchcock Casbon. He was born and raised in Meldreth. Unlike the other Meldreth families, he was a landowner. This put him in a higher social class than the other Meldreth Casbons and allowed him to serve on juries, and possibly to vote.

For reasons unknown to me (unless it was tied to his bankruptcy), James moved from Meldreth to Barley, Hertfordshire, a distance of about five miles, sometime between 1851 and 1854. His oldest son, Alfred Hitch (1828), became a tailor, as did Alfred’s two sons. It’s interesting that they were located in different cities for every census. James’s son John (1835) followed him in the farming and carrier tradition, while his son George (1836) became established in Barley as a wheelwright.

Two of his female descendants, Margaret (1873) and Julia (1866), became domestic servants. Two other female descendants, daughter Fanny (1846) and granddaughter Lavinia (1870) broke the domestic service tradition, with Fanny becoming the “superintendent” (perhaps housemistress) of a large apartment complex and Lavinia becoming a bookseller. Both later moved to Folkestone, where Fanny became the owner of a boarding house/vacation hotel [link]). Charlotte (Haines), the wife of Alfred H. (1828), must have supplemented the family income with her occupation as a straw bonnet cleaner.

Meldreth Group 3

(Click on image to enlarge) Extracted census data for three generations of Meldreth Group 3

This is my own ancestral group, consisting of three brothers, Thomas (1803), William (1806), and James (1813). A fourth brother, Joseph (born about 1811), died without male heirs. Thomas emigrated to the United States in 1846, so is only captured in the 1841 census as an agricultural labourer.

His brother William (1806) and William’s son William (1835) worked in Meldreth as agricultural labourers their entire lives, except that William junior seems to have “moved up” as a market gardener in 1891. William’s (1806) two grandsons left Meldreth. Walter (1856) eventually became a railway wagon examiner and William (1860) lived in various places with diverse jobs. Although listed as a baker in 1891, he later became the Superintendent of Catering for the House of Lords. William’s (1806) granddaughter, Priscilla (1862), was a domestic servant in 1881 and was living in Meldreth with no occupation listed in 1891.

James (1813) and his descendants in England were never able to rise above the class of (mostly agricultural) labourers, although George (1846), and possibly William (1836), served time as soldiers. Like his brother Thomas, James (1813) emigrated to the United States in 1870, leaving his adult children behind.

Chatteris Group

(Click on image to enlarge) Extracted census data for two generations of Chatteris Casbons

The two brothers in this group, Lester (1841) and John (1846), were agricultural labourers. Unusually, John’s daughter Rose (1868) was also listed as an agricultural labourer. The other two daughters, Lizzie (1872) and Harriet (1874) followed the traditional route for working-class women as domestic servants. Only Charles (1873) seems to have advanced a little in social standing as a saddler. The most unique occupation in this group was Sarah “Kate” (1844) who was listed as a “gay girl,” i.e., a prostitute.

General Observations

I have consolidated the occupational data for all of these family groups into a single chart.

(Click on image to enlarge) Consolidated occupational data from the 1841–1891 censuses for the Casbon family groups

During the study period four generations of the Peterborough group, three generations of the Meldreth subgroups, and two generations of the Chatteris group—a total of 55 individuals—had occupations recorded on the 1841–1891 censuses.

In general, there was very little upward social mobility. Descendants of working-class families tended to continue in working-class occupations, although in different categories (agriculture/industry/transportation for men and domestic service for women) and different locations. The Peterborough group and Meldreth Group 2 started out in a higher social class as gardeners and farmers (i.e., land owners), but their descendants tended to stay in about the same social class as tradesmen (tailor, wheelwright, grocer) of different kinds.

This lack of upward mobility is probably a reflection of the rigid class structure that persisted in England throughout the 19th and into the early 20th century. I’m a little surprised that more of the working-class descendants weren’t able to move up to what I would call lower-middle class occupations.

That said, the later generations were probably better off economically and materially than their predecessors. Overall, the economy improved throughout the century. Food was probably more plentiful, and furnishings less primitive compared to the lives of agricultural labourers in the early 19th century.

The growth of transportation and urbanization created new job opportunities and drove later generations into the cities. By 1891 there is a much greater diversity in occupations, especially for the men. This trend was most pronounced for the Meldreth group, many of whom ended up in or near London. As they migrated to the cities, their numbers dwindled in the home village. By 1891, only two households—William (1835) and John (1849)—were recorded in Meldreth or it’s sister village or Melbourn.

For working-class women, domestic service was one of the few sources of employment. Girls usually began working “in service” in their teens and continued until they were married. A few never married and continued in service their entire working lives. Even the daughters of a farmer/landowner and a tradesman, Margaret (1873) and Julia (1866), respectively, found employment in domestic service. There were three notable exceptions: Fanny (1846), Lavinia (1870), and Sarah “Kate” (1844). The first two of these became financially independent, while Kate’s fate is unknown.

It would be interesting to compare the occupations of the 19th century with those of the 20th. Many of the social barriers were greatly reduced or broken down altogether. The two world wars created tremendous social and economic disruptions. I’m certain we would see a great deal more diversity and upward mobility in occupations for men and women. Unfortunately, census data is only available for 1901 through 1921 in England, along with a census-like instrument known as the 1939 register. Such a study will have to wait, for now.

Alice Hannah Casbon (1871–1950)

Alice Hannah Casbon was the last child born to James (~1813–1884) and Mary (Jackson, ~1833–187_?) Casbon. There is a family tradition that Alice was born at sea while the family was making the crossing from Liverpool to New York aboard the ship Great Western. Although there is no evidence to support the claim, it is easy to see how the story came about. The Great Western arrived at New York on Christmas Day, 1870.[1] Alice does not appear on the ship’s passenger manifest. Her birth date is recorded as 25 January 1871, just one month after the family’s arrival in New York.[2] Thus, if the family had sailed one month later, or if her mother had gone into premature labor, Alice would have been born at sea!

Imagine how uncomfortable the voyage in the steerage of a sailing vessel must have been for Alice’s mother, being so far advanced in her pregnancy.

Despite the family tradition, all the available evidence supports the birth date given above. There is no official birth certificate, as these were not required at the time. However, every available census gives her birthplace as Indiana; and the 1900 census gives the month and year as January 1871.[3] The date of 25 January 1871 is recorded on her death certificate and in her obituary.[4]

Nothing is known of Alice’s childhood, but we can conclude that it would not have been easy. Alice was no more than 5 years old, and possibly much younger, when her mother died. James remarried in 1876 and died in 1884, when Alice was 13. Whatever was left of her childhood was spent with her stepmother, Mary (Payne). Unfortunately, there are no documents that I know of that describe this period of her life.

According to the 1940 U.S. census, Alice’s highest level of education was the fourth grade.[5] Although this was common for girls at the time, it seems likely that Alice went to work at an early age, either at the home or elsewhere, given what we know about her circumstances.

On 24 January 1891, a day before her twentieth birthday, Alice married a two-time widower named Benjamin Edwards.[6] He was 20 years older than Alice and, according to his obituary, had 13 children from his first marriage.[7] At least five of these children were 10 years old or younger, so Alice was immediately placed into the role of stepmother.

The couple had another eight children together: Elsie, born 1892, Grace (1894), Bertha (1895), Mary Alice (1897), Howard (1899), Pearl (1901), Hazel (1903), and Florence (1906). All except Pearl, a son, survived into adulthood.

Detail from an Edwards family photo (undated); left to right, back row: Elsie, Grace, Benjamin, Alice (Casbon), Bertha, Hazel; front row: Howard, Florence, and unidentified; courtesy of Ron Casbon (Click on image to enlarge)

In the 1900 census, Ben, Alice, and their family were residing in Porter Township, Porter County, Indiana.[8] In 1910 and 1920, they were living in Union Township, Porter County.[9] By 1930, Ben, now retired, and Alice lived at 960 West Street in Valparaiso, the Porter County seat.[10] This house is still standing.

Benjamin Edwards died in 1934 at the age of 83.[11] Two years later, Alice married Charles Hicks, a roofing contractor and former city councilman.[12] This marriage was short-lived due to Charles’s premature death following a traffic accident. The story received extensive coverage in the Valparaiso Vidette-Messenger. Both Charles and Alice suffered fractured knee caps along with cuts and bruises, as a result of a head-on collision on 4 February 1938. They were both hospitalized at Fairview hospital in LaPorte, Indiana, “where it was stated their condition is not critical.”[13] On 25 February it was reported that both had undergone surgery for the fractured kneecaps. “Mrs. Hicks is recovering nicely, but Mr. Hicks’ condition is not so good.”[14] Two days later, Charles was dead.[15]

In her later years, Alice seems to have divided her time between at least two of her daughters. In the 1940 census, she was staying with her daughter Grace and her husband, Jay Blachly, in Valparaiso.[16] In early 1948 she was said to be residing with her daughter Hazel and her husband, Arthur Simpson, in Three Oaks, Michigan.[17] However, in July of that year, she was again residing with Grace, when she had a heart attack and was said to be making a “rapid recovery.”[18] She was once again living with Hazel in Michigan when she passed away 15 March 1950 from “a lingering illness.”[19] The nature of her illness is unknown to me. Alice was 79 years old when she died.

Undated photo of Alice in her later years; courtesy of Ron Casbon

One of Alice’s daughters is said to have done a great deal of Casbon genealogy research. I have copies of some of these records, but they came to me indirectly and I don’t know who the daughter was.


[1] “Marine Intelligence,” The New York Times, 26 Dec 1870, p. 8, col. 5; online images (https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1870/12/26/issue.html : accessed 17 January 2017).
[2] “Michigan Death Certificates, 1921-1952,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KF41-L5D : accessed 21 February 2017); citing Three Oaks, Berrien, Michigan, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, Lansing; FHL microfilm 1,973,189.
[3] 1900 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, Porter Township, ED 91, sheet 4B, dwelling & family 75 (Benjamin Edwards); imaged as “United States Census, 1900,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6QNS-7WT?i=7 : accessed 20 Jan 2015) >Indiana > Porter > ED 91 Porter Township > image 8 of 22; citing NARA microfilm publication T623.
[4] “Michigan Death Certificates, 1921-1952.” “Mrs Alice Hicks Dies Following Lingering Illness,” The (Valparaiso, Indiana) Vidette-Messenger, 16 Mar 1950, p. 6; image copy, Newspaper Archive (accessed through participating libraries: 16 Aug 2016).
[5] 1940 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, Valparaiso, Ward 3, ED 64-6, sheet 4-B, family 89 (Blachley—transcribed as “Blackley”—Jay); imaged as “United States Census, 1940,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QSQ-G9MB-N9LX?i=7&cc=2000219 : accessed 6 July 2017); citing NARA digital publication T627.
[6] Porter County, Indiana, marriage records, vol. 9 (1889–1892), no. 282; imaged as “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/collection/1410397 : accessed 22 Mar 2019) > >Porter >1889-1892 Volume 9 >image 179 of 361; citing Indiana Commission on Public Records, Indianapolis.
[7] “Benj. Edwards, Local Pioneer, Death Victim,” The Vidette-Messenger, 19 Mar 1934, p. 4, col. 4; online image, Newspaper Archive (accessed 15 April 2018).
[8] 1900 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, ED 91, Sheet 4B.
[9] 1910 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, ED 150, sheet 8A, dwelling 151, family 153; imaged as “United States Census, 1910,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRJJ-FWS?i=14 : accessed 29 Oct 2015); citing NARA microfilm publication T624. 1920 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, ED 154, sheet 9B, dwelling 187, family 197; “United States Census, 1920,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GR67-31W?i=18 : accessed 14 Dec 2015); citing NARA microfilm publication T625.
[10] 1930 U.S. census, Porter County, Center Township, ED 64-7, sheet 7B; imaged as “United States Census, 1930,” FamilySearch images, (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GRH7-J26?i=13 : accessed 23 Mar 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T626.
[11] “Benj. Edwards, Local Pioneer, Death Victim,” The Vidette-Messenger.
[12] “Indiana, Marriage Index, 1800-1941”, database, (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=5059 : accessed 23 Mar 2019), Charles Hicks & Alice Edwards, 4 Mar 1936; citing Starke County, Indiana, Index to Marriage Record 1896 – 1938, Inc. Letters, W. P. A.; original Record Located: County Clerk’s O; Book: H-21; Page: 20.
[13] “Charles Hicks and Wife Hurt in Auto Crash,” The Vidette-Messenger, 4 Feb 1938, p. 1, col. 7; Newspaper Archive (accessed 23 Mar 2019).
[14] “Condition of Charles Hicks Not Favorable,” The Vidette-Messenger, 25 February 1938, p. 1, col. 6; image copy, Newspaper Archive (accessed 23 March 2019).
[15] “C.S. Hicks Fails to Survive Crash Injuries,” The Vidette-Messenger, 28 Feb 1938, pp. 1-2; Newspaper Archive (accessed 23 March 2019).
[16] 1940 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, Valparaiso, Ward 3, ED 64-6, sheet 4-B.
[17] “Local Brevities,” The Vidette-Messenger, 3 Apr 1948, p. 2, col. 1; Newspaper Archive (accessed 12 Jul 2020).
[18] “Local Brevities,” The Vidette-Messenger, 13 Jul 1948, p. 2, col. 1; Newspaper Archive (accessed 12 Jul 2020).
[19] “Mrs Alice Hicks Dies Following Lingering Illness,” The Vidette-Messenger, 16 Mar 1950, p. 6; image copy, Newspaper Archive (accessed 16 Aug 2016).

More Servants!

My last two posts profiled two individuals who entered into domestic service as a ladies-maid and footman, respectively. Before I leave the topic altogether, I want to pay tribute to many other Casbon family members who worked as domestic servants. I’ve combed through my files to find those Casbon relatives who were listed as servants on census or other records. It turns out there were quite a few! I know precious few details about most of them, but collectively, I think their stories are worth the telling.

All of the servants featured in today’s post are women. This should come as no great surprise. Employment opportunities for women during this time frame (mid 1800s to early 1900s) were limited, and domestic service was one of the most common occupations for working-class women. In 1911, although the numbers were already declining, twenty-eight percent of working women in England were employed in domestic service.[1]

Men constituted a much lower percentage of the domestic service workforce. Men had access to a much greater variety of trades and occupations.“Most of those employed in domestic service in Victorian times were women, outnumbering men at over 20 to one by 1880.”[2] There was a tax on male servants, so they tended to be employed in larger, wealthier households.[3] The majority of female servants worked in middle-class households; where having at least one servant was considered essential.[4]

Here are the Casbon women I’ve discovered who were domestic servants at one time or another. They are presented in roughly chronological birth order and grouped by families.

John Finnie (1829-1907), “Maids of All Work” (1864-5), ©The Geffrye Museum of the Home.[5]

Mary Ann, Edith, Jane and Martha Casbon

I’ve listed these four together because they were the daughters of William (1805–1807) and Ann (Clark, ~1812–1869) Casbon, of Meldreth, Cambridgeshire. William was an agricultural labourer with a large family.

Mary Ann was born about 1831 in Meldreth.[6] in the 1851 census, we find her listed as the only servant in the household of John Campkin, a “Grocer & Draper” living in Melbourn.[7] By 1861 Mary Ann was working as a cook in a London public house.[8] I haven’t located her in the 1871 census. In 1875, at the age of forty-four, she married a widower named Joseph Sparrow.[9] She had no children. Her date of death is unknown, but occurred after 1891.[10]

Edith was baptized at Meldreth in 1835.[11] In 1851, sixteen-year-old Edith was working as a “house servant” in the home of Elizabeth Bell, a widow in Whaddon, Cambridgeshire, with a farm of 166 acres (quite large for that time).[12] There were also two male servants in the household, a horse keeper and a shepherd. She married William Catley in 1860,[13] and together they had seven children. She died in 1916 and was buried in Melbourn.[14]

Jane was baptized in 1840 at Meldreth.[15] In 1861 she was living at home but listed as “Servant,” so she was presumably working elsewhere.[16] In 1871, she was listed as “House Keeper,” again in her father’s household, so it is unclear whether she was keeping his or someone else’s house.[17] She married John Camp in 1881[18] and had two children. She died in 1904, age sixty-four.[19]

Martha, who was twenty-four years younger than her sister Mary Ann, spent most of her life as a domestic servant in London. In 1871, Martha was listed as “Housemaid” along with one other female servant (the cook) in the household of a civil engineer.[20] In 1881 she was the sole servant in a small household consisting of a Scottish woolen merchant and his sister.[21] She was again the sole servant in 1891, this time to a chemist and his wife.[22] In 1901 she was the lone servant for a Presbyterian minister and his wife.[23] The last record we have of Martha as a servant is in 1911 (the last year census records are available). At that time fifty-six-year-old Martha was serving as the cook in a household with three other servants.[24] Their master and mistress were a retired draper and his wife. Quite a few servants for two people! Martha never married. Sometime before 1839, she retired to Melbourn, Cambridgeshire (the sister village to Meldreth).[25] She died in Cambridge in 1947 and was buried in Melbourn.[26]

Sarah Casbon

Sarah was the daughter of Thomas (~1807–1863) and Jane (Cooper, ~1803–1874) Casbon. Thomas was the patriarch of the “Peterborough Casbons.”  Sarah was born about 1834 in Somersham, Huntingdonshire.[27] In 1851, she was the only servant for a widow and her daughter in Chatteris.[28] She married Richard Baker in 1857[29] and had at least eight children. She died in 1904, age sixty-nine.[30]

Priscilla Casbon

Priscilla was the daughter of William (~1835–1896) and Sarah (West, ~1823–1905) Casbon of Meldreth. William was an agricultural labourer and Priscilla his only daughter. She was born in 1862.[31] In the 1881 census, she was employed as the only servant for a banker’s clerk and his wife in Cambridge.[32] In 1891 she was living with her parents at home, with no occupation listed.[33]

Priscilla’s story has an interesting twist. When she was thirty-four, in 1896, she married a seventy-seven-year-old widowed gentleman named Charles Banks.[34] He was definitely a “sugar daddy.” He never had children. When he died in 1904, his estate was valued at
£12, 232, divided between Priscilla and two other beneficiaries.[35] There is evidence that she remarried a man named John Wilson in 1908 and was still alive in 1939, but I’m not certain this is her. I would love to know more about her story!

Julia Frances Casbon

Julia was born in 1866, the daughter of George S (~1836–1914) and Sarah (Pryor, ~1831–1903) Casbon. George was a wheelwright in Barley, Hertfordshire, and originally from Meldreth. In the 1891 census, we find Julia working as one of three female servants in the household of a retired Army officer in Kensington, London.[36] She married Henry Brassington, a bootmaker, in 1899.[37] They had two sons. Julia was ninety-nine years old when she died in 1965.[38]

Kate Casban

Kate was the daughter of John (1843–1927) and Mary Anne (Hall, ~1840–1880) Casban. She was born in 1874.[39] In 1891, at the age of seventeen, she was one of two female servants employed by a single unmarried woman.[40] She married Frederick Gunn in 1898[41] and had two children. I haven’t been able to pin down the date of her death.

Margaret Alice Casban

Born at Melbourn in 1875,[42] the daughter of Samuel Clark (1851–1922) and Lydia (Harrup, ~1853–1924) Casban, “Alice,” like her cousin Kate, was already working as a servant in 1891.[43] She was one of two servants, the other a footman, working for the proprietor of a pub.[44] She married Thomas William Francis in 1898[45] and had seven children. Date of her death is uncertain.

Olive Louise, Maud Emily, Hilda Mary, and Elsie Lydia Casbon

These four sisters were the daughters of George (1846–1897) and Sarah (Pearse, ~1847–1912) Casbon. George was originally from Meldreth but settled in nearby Fowlmere where he was a farm labourer. The family was probably quite poor. Sarah, the mother, went to work as a charwoman after George’s death. The daughters would have had few other options than going into domestic service as soon as they reached a suitable age. A striking feature of this family is that all four daughters died at an early age. I don’t know the cause of death for any of them.

Olive Louise, the oldest, was born in 1884.[46] by 1901, she was the sole servant for a tea buyer and his family, living in Croydon.[47] In 1911, she was one of two servants, the other the cook, for a much larger family, also in Croydon.[48] She married Thomas De Rinzy[49] in 1911 and bore him a son that same year. [50] Olive died in 1916, thirty-two years old.[51]

Maud Emily was born in 1885.[52] In 1901 at age fifteen, she was working as a kitchen maid in Melbourn,[53] and in 1911 she was the cook for a London single woman.[54] She died later that year at the age of twenty-six.[55]

Hilda Mary was born in 1887.[56] In 1911 she was living with her mother in Fowlmere, but occupation was listed as “General (Domestic),” which suggests that she was doing service work outside of the home.[57] By 1914, she was working as a domestic servant in Surrey. We know this because of the fact that she gave birth to a son in June 1914.[58] The birth certificate states that she was “a Domestic Servant of 140 Beckenham Road Penge.”

Birth certificate of George Casbon, 11 June 1914. (Click on image to enlarge)

An unwanted pregnancy was possibly the worst-case scenario for an unmarried female servant. If she became pregnant, she could be “immediately turned out of the house without a character to join the ranks of the unemployed.”[59]

I have handwritten notes from a relative stating that Hilda abandoned her son at the Croydon Infirmary, and that he was later taken in by the Mission of Good Hope, a well-known organization that placed children for adoption. This fills in some blanks in another story, that of how young George came to be placed with Dr. Barnardo’s Homes and then sent to Canada as a sort-of indentured servant.

I don’t know what became of Hilda after the birth, except for her death, at age thirty-three, in 1921.[60]

The youngest sister, Elsie Lydia, was born in 1890.[61] She was the sole domestic servant at the White Ribbon Temperance Hotel located in Cambridge, 1911.[62] I presume that Elsie later found a position in Kensington, London, because that is where here death was registered in 1919.[63] She was thirty years old.

The stories of these thirteen women are in many ways typical for female domestic servants of their era. With the exception of Martha, they did not work as servants for the greater part of their lives. Most of them started work in their teens and continued until they found husbands and had families of their own. They generally worked in smaller middle-class homes with one or two servants. Other than the four daughters of George and Sarah (Pearse) Casbon, they generally lived “normal” lifespans.

This is far from an adequate description of their lives, since it is based largely on “snapshots” taken every ten years with the census. Nevertheless, their stories provide insights into our shared heritage and deserve to be told.

[1] “Women and Work in the 19th Century,” Striking Women (http://www.striking-women.org/module/women-and-work/19th-and-early-20th-century : accessed 27 January 2019).
[2] “Who Were the Servants?” My Learning (https://www.mylearning.org/stories/the-victorian-servant/280 : accessed 27 January 2019).
[3] Kate Clark, “Women and Domestic Service in Victorian Society,” The History Press (https://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/articles/women-and-domestic-service-in-victorian-society/ : accessed 27 January 2019).
[4] “The Rise of the Middle Classes,” Victorian England: Life of the Working and Middle Classes (https://valmcbeath.com/victorian-era-middle-classes/#.XE3gilxKiUk : accessed 27 January 2019).
[5] “File: John Finnie. Maids of All Work, 1864-65 (higher colour).jpg,” Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:John_Finnie._Maids_of_All_Work,_1864-65_(higher_colour).jpg : accessed 27 January 2019).
[6] 1841 England census, Cambridgeshire, Meldreth, ED 19, p. 9, High St., Mary Ann (age 10) in household of William Casbon; imaged as “1841 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8978 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >District 19 >image 6 of 9; The National Archives (TNA), HO 107/63/19.
[7] 1851 England census, Cambridgeshire, Melbourn, ED 11b, p. 3, schedule 8, Church Lane, Mary Casbon in household of John Campkin; imaged as “1851 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8860 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Melbourn >11b >image 4 of 25; TNA, HO 107/1708/177.
[8] 1861 England census, Middlesex, Islington, ED 36, p. 27, schedule 153, Mary Ann Cusbin in household of Richd Munford; imaged as “1861 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8767 : accessed 19 November 2018), Middlesex >Islington >Islington East >District 36 >image 28 of 84; TNA, RG 9/16/55.
[9] Church of England, Parish of St. Lukes Finsbury (Middlesex), Marriage Records, 1871-6, p. 245, no. 489, Joseph Sparrow & Mary Ann Casbon, 26 Dec 1875; imaged as “London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1921,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1623 : accessed 10 Aug 2016), Islington >St Luke, Finsbury >1867-1881 >image 494 of 747; London Metropolitan Archives, record no. p76/luk/058.
[10] 1891 England census, London, Hackney, ED 23b, p. 31, schedule 47, 33 Benyon Rd, Mary A Sparrow (indexed as “Spawn”); imaged as “1891 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6598 : accessed 29 October 2018), London >Hackney >West Hackney >District 23b >image 32 of 34; TNA RG12/190/98.
[11] Church of England, Meldreth (Cambridgeshire), Register of Baptisms, 1813-77,. 44, no. 345, Edith Casburn, 29 Mar 1835; imaged as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,”FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 28 April 2017), image 219 of 699; FHL film 1,040,542, item 5.
[12] 1851 England census, Cambridgeshire, Whaddon, ED 4, p. 15, schedule 43, Edith Casbon in household of Elizabeth Bell; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8860 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Whaddon >4 >image 16 of 23; TNA, HO 107/1708/34.
[13] Meldreth, Register of Marriages, 1837-75, p. 50, no. 99, William Catley & Edith Casbon, 13 Oct 1860; imaged as “Parish registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 29 August 2017), image 397 of 699; FHL film 1,040,542, item 9.
[14] “Index of Cambridgeshire Parish Records,” database/transcriptions, Cambridge Family History Society, Edith Catley, bu. 22 May 1916 at Melbourn; print copy in author’s personal collection.
[15] Meldreth, Register of Baptisms, 1813-77, p. 54, no. 429, Jane Casbon, 29 Nov 1840; FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/search/film/007567609?cat=210742 : accessed 28 April 2017), image 224 of 699.
[16] 1861 England census, Cambridgeshire, Meldreth, ED 15, schedule 133; J Carston in household of William Caston; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8767 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >District 15 >image 25 of 32; TNA, RG 9/815/64.
[17] 1871 England census, Meldreth, enumeration district (ED) 15, p. 21, schedule 125, High St., Jane Casbon in household of William Casbon; “1871 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7619 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >District 15 >image 22 of 32; TNA, RG 10/1363/25.
[18] “England & Wales Marriages 1837-2008”, database, findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/search-world-Records/england-and-wales-marriages-1837-2005 : accessed 30 March 2017), John Camp, 1st qtr, 1881, Royston, vol. 3A/323; General Register Office (GRO), Southport.
[19] “Search the GRO Online Index,” HM Passport Office (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp : accessed 27 January 2019), deaths, Jane Camp, J[un] qtr, 1904, Royston, vol. 3A/299.
[20] 1871 England census, Kent, Lewisham, ED 4, p. 61, schedule 214, Martha Casbon (indexed “Carbor” in household of John H Greener (indexed “Greeno”); Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7619 : accessed 19 March 2018), Kent >Lewisham >Lee >District 4 >image 62 of 80; TNA, RG 10/763/89.
[21] 1881 England census, London, Hammersmith, ED 28, pp. 41-2, schedule 186, 100 Godolphin Rd., Martha Casbon in household of John Weir; “1881 England Census,” Ancestry ((https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7619 : accessed 19 March 2018), London >Hammersmith >St Paul Hammersmith >District 28 >image 42 of 68; TNA, RG 11/60/143.
[22] 1891 England census, London, Lambeth, ED 20, p. 4, schedule 20, 156 Clapham Rd., Martha Casbon in the household of Frederick Glew; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6598 : accessed 27 January 2019), London >Lambeth >Kennington First >District 20 >image 5 of 45; TNA, RG 12/400/96.
[23] 1901 England census, London, Hammersmith, ED 3, p. 90, schedule620, 214 Goldhawk Rd., Martha Casbon in household of Henry Miller; “1901 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7814 : accessed 20 March 2018; TNA, RG 13/: accessed 20 March 2018; TNA, RG 13/9/124.
[24] 1911 England census, London, Lambeth, ED 10, schedule 109, 76 Tulse Hill SW, Martha Casbon in household of Thomas Drake; “1911 England Census,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2352 : accessed 27 January 2019), London >Lambeth >Norwood >10 >image 220 of 421; TNA, RG 14/2109.
[25] 1939 Register, Cambridgeshire, South Cambridgeshire, ED TBKV, schedule 34, High St., Martha Casbon, “1939 England and Wales Register,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=61596 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >South Cambridgeshire RD >TBKV >image 5 of 9; TNA, RG 191.63261,
[26] “Melbourn Burials 1739–1950,” p. 73, Martha Casbon, 19 Jan 1947; transcriptions, Cambridge Family History Society, Melbourn burials, Martha Casbon, bu. 22 May 1916 at Melbourn; print copy in author’s personal collection.
[27] 1851 England census, Cambridgeshire, Chatteris, ED 3e, p. 1, schedule 1, Park Rd., Sarah Casborn in household of Ann Curtis; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8860 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgshire >Chatteris >3e >image 2 of 48; TNA, HO 107/1765/371.
[28] Ibid.
[29] Church of England, Peterborough (Northamptonshire), St. John Parish, Marriages, 1855–1866, p. 76, no. 152, Richard Baker & Sarah Casbon, 22 Jun 1857; imaged as “Northamptonshire, England, Church of England Marriages, 1754-1912,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=9199 : accessed 19 January 2018), Peterborough, St John >Parish Registers >1855-1859 >image 41 of 66; Northamptonshire Record Office, Northampton.
[30] “Search the GRO Online Index,” deaths, Sarah Baker, M[ar] qtr, 1904, Peterborough, vol. 3B/146.
[31] “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Priscilla Banks, D[ec] qtr, 1862, Royston, vol. 3A/227.
[32] 1881 England Census, Cambridgeshire, Cambridge, ED 2, p. 14, schedule 59, 8 Parker St., Priscilla Casbon in household of Edmund Wilson; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7572 : accessed 26 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Cambridge >St. Andrew the Great >District 2 >image 15 of 48; TNA, RG 11/1669/43.
[33] 1891 England census, Cambridgeshire, Meldreth, ED 13, p. 18, schedule 134, Witcroft Rd., Priscilla Casbon in household of William Casbon; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6598 : accessed 27 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Meldreth >District 13 >image 19 of 27; TNA, RG 12/1104/68.
[34] “England & Wales, Civil Registration Marriage Index, 1837-1915,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=8913 : accessed 24 April 2018), Priscilla Casbon, 3d qtr, 1896, Bedford, vol. 3B/732; GRO, London.
[35] “Find A Will,” Gov.UK (https://probatesearch.service.gov.uk/Calendar#calendar : accessed 27 January 2019), Wills and Probate 1858–1996, search terms: “banks” “1904.”
[36] 1891 England census, London, Kensington, ED 17, p. 30, schedule 157, 40 Evelyn Gardens, Julia F Casbon in the household of Thomas Fraser; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6598 : accessed 27 January 2019), London >Kensington >Brompton >District 17 >image 31 of 51; TNA, RG 12/32/73.
[37] Church of England, Barley (Hertfordshire), Marriage registers, p. 136, no. 271, Henry Brassington & Julia Frances Casbon, 19 Sep 1899; “Hertfordshire Banns & Marriages,” findmypast (https://search.findmypast.com/search-world-Records/hertfordshire-banns-and-marriages : accessed 14 October 2017).
[38] “England and Wales Death Registration Index 1837-2007”, FamilySearch, (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QVCK-W896 : accessed 4 September 2014), Julia F Brassington, 1965, 4th qtr, Harrow, vol. 5B/961/153; citing GRO, Southport.
[39] “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Kate Casban, M[ar] atr, 1874, Edmonton, vol. 3A: 203.
[40] 1891 England Census, Middlesex, Edmonton, ED 1, p. 49, schedule 284, Langhedge House, Kate Casban in household of Maria Rowley; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6598 : accessed 28 January 2019), Middlesex >Edmonton >District 01 >image 50 of 54; TNA, RG 14/1081/27.
[41] Church of England, London, Edmonton, St James, Marriages 1851-1917, p. 159, no. 318, Frederick Gunn & Kate Casban, 9 Apr 1898; “London, England, Church of England Marriages and Banns, 1754-1932,” Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=1623 : accessed 22 March 2017), Enfield >St James, Upper Edmonton >1851-1917 >image 206 of 506; London Metropolitan Archives.
[42] “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Margaret Casbon, D[ec] qtr, 1875, Royston, vol. 3A/320.
[43] 1891 England Census, Surrey, Croydon, ED 34, p. 9, schedule 48, 25 Wellesley Rd., Alice Casbar in household of George E Wheeler; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6598 : accessed 28 January 2019), Surrey >Croydon >District 34 >image 10 of 89; TNA RG 14/591/44.
[44] Ibid.
[45] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:269S-X5P : accessed 13 December 2014), Margaret Alice Casban, 2d qtr, 1898, Croydon, vol. 2A/529/38; GRO, Southport.
[46] “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Olive Louise Casbon, J[un] qtr, 1884, Royston, vol. 3A/444.
[47] 1901 England census, Surrey, Croydon, ED 81, p. 8, schedule 45, Olive L Casson in household of John Percy Lewis; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7814 : accessed 26 January 2019), Surrey >Croydon >District 81 >image 9 of 55; TNA, RG 13/648/8.
[48] 1911 England Census, Surrey, Croydon, ED 18, schedule 63, 18 Avenue Rd, Norwood S.E., Olive Louise Casbon in household of Reuben Glasgow Kestin; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2352 : accessed 20 March 2018), Surrey >Croydon >North Croydon >18 >image 126 of 699; TNA, RG 14/3385.
[49] “England and Wales Marriage Registration Index, 1837-2005,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:267B-M1S : accessed 14 November 2015), Olive L Casbon, 2d qtr, 1911, Croydon, vol, 2A/631/105.
[50] “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Thomas Jessop Cavendish De Rinzy, D[ec] qtr, 1911, Croydon, vol. 2A/644.
[51] “Search the GRO Online Index,” deaths, Olive Louise De Rinzy, D[ec] qtr, 1916, Croydon, vol. 2A/473.
[52] “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Maud Emily Casbon, D[ec] qtr, 1885, Royston, vol. 3A/471.
[53] 1901 England census, Cambridgeshire, Melbourn, enumeration district 9, p. 9, schedule 44, Maud Carton in household of Albert Spencer; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7814 : accessed 28 January 2019), Cambridgeshire >Melbourn >District 09 >image 10 of 27; TNA, RG 13/1296/9.
[54] 1911 England Census, Surrey, Penge, ED 2, schedule 138, Maude Emily Casbon in household of Adele Maude Everest; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2352 : accessed 20 March 201), Surrey >Penge >02 >image 276 of 809; TNA, RG 14/3406.
[55] “Search the GRO Online Index,” deaths, Maud Emily Casbon, D[ec] qtr, 1911, Croydon, vol. 2A/408.
[56] “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Hilda Mary Casbon, D[ec] qtr, 1887, Royston, vol. 3A/466.
[57] 1911 England Census, Cambridgeshire, Fowlmere, ED 5, schedule 26, Hilda Casbon in household of Sarah Casbon; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2352 : accessed 28 January 2019), Hertfordshire >Fowlmere >05 >image 52 of 265; TNA, RG 14/7557.
[58] England, birth certificate (PDF copy) for George Casbon, born 11 Jun 1914; registered June quarter, Croydon district 2A/618, West Croydon Sub-district, Surrey; General Register Office, Southport.
[59] Tessa Arlen, “The Redoubtable Edwardian Housemaid and a Life of Service,” Tessa Arlen Mysteries from the early 1900s (http://www.tessaarlen.com/redoubtable-housmaid-life-belowstairs/ : accessed 28 January 2019).
[60] “Search the GRO Online Index,” deaths, Hilda Casbon, J[un] qtr, 1921, Croydon, vol. 2A/312.
[61] “Search the GRO Online Index,” births, Elsie Lydia Casbon, S[ep] qtr, 1890, Royston, vol. 3A/490.
[62] 1911 England Census, Cambridgeshire,Cambridge, ED 7, schedule 135, 160-1 East Rd, Elsie Lydia Caslon in household of George W Sheet; Ancestry (https://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=2352 : accessed 20 March 2018), Cambridgeshire >Cambridge >St Andrew the Less >07 >image 274 of 313; TNA, RG 14/9107.
[63] “Search the GRO Online Index,” deaths, Elsie Casbon, J[un] qtr, 1919, Kensington, vol. 1A/217.

The Death Certificate of Mary (Payne) Casbon (~1832–1903)

Death certificates can be a valuable source of information, especially when other sources about a given person are limited or cannot be found. However, the accuracy of the information is often questionable, depending on how and by whom the information was obtained. Both of these statements apply to the death certificate of Mary (Payne) Casbon, third wife and widow of James Casbon (~1813–1884).[1]

(Click on image to enlarge)

I just found this death certificate on Ancestry last week. It did not come up on earlier searches because her last name was transcribed as Carbon instead of Casbon. Before finding this, the only sources I had concerning Mary were her 1876 marriage registration, 1880 and 1900 U.S. censuses, and an entry on FindAGrave.com. Let’s take a closer look at her death certificate to see what it can tell us.

(Click on image to enlarge)

The top section of the certificate gives Mary’s name as “Mary P. Casbon.” The “P” probably stands for Payne, her maiden name. Although the “s” in her surname does look somewhat like an “r,” it is distinctly different than the “r” in her first name. The certificate gives the place of death as Center Township in Porter County. No town, city or street address is given. If she had died in Valparaiso, the county seat and main population center of the township, I would have expected that to be written. This could simply be a clerical oversight, but it could also mean that she died elsewhere in the township, outside of city limits. I’ll return to this thought in a few paragraphs.

(Click on image to enlarge)

You’ll notice that the “Personal and Statistical Particulars” section of the certificate was completed by Charles Casbon, the informant for the death certificate. This would have been Charles Thomas Casbon (1840–1915), son of Thomas (~1803–1888) and nephew of Mary’s deceased husband, James. It’s interesting to me that Charles was the informant. Mary had two step-children living in Porter County—Amos and Alice—both children of James by his previous wife, Mary (Jackson, ~1833–before 1876). (James’ other daughter Margaret had just died on April 30, 1903, in La Porte County.[2])

Why wasn’t either Amos or Alice the informant? I’ve been told that Mary and her step-children weren’t on the best of terms, but this may not be the reason. They lived several miles further south, in Porter Township. Not only was Charles closer, but it’s even possible that Mary was staying with him at the time of her death.

In the 1900 census, Mary was living in Hebron, in the southern part of the county.[3]

Detail from 1900 U.S. Census, Hebron Town, Boone Township, Porter County, Indiana (image is a composite, placing column headings next to Mary’s entry) (Click on image to enlarge)

Of note is that fact that Mary lived with a “servant,” named Mary E. Lytle, who’s occupation is listed as “Nurse.” This suggests that Mary’s illness had been longstanding. Incidentally, Mary Lytle was almost certainly the widow of Thomas G. Lytle, a wealthy manufacturer and former three-time mayor of Valparaiso.[4] I suspect that, rather than a servant, she was more of a live-in nurse and caregiver.

If Mary’s home was Hebron, why was she in Center Township when she died? Perhaps in her final illness, she could either no longer afford or was too sick to live on her own. It might have been easier to get the medical care she needed in Valparaiso. If so, staying with a relative would have been a practical solution. A 1902 Valparaiso City Directory lists Charles’ address as “Cemetery av[e] (outside City Limits).[5]” Cemetery Avenue is known today as Linwood Avenue, and leads from the city to the western edges of Graceland and Maplewood cemeteries. If Mary had been staying with Charles, this would explain why her place of death was listed as Center Township and not Valparaiso proper.

The fact that Charles was the informant doesn’t mean he could be counted on to provide accurate information for the death certificate. As a step-nephew, it’s unlikely that he had the detailed knowledge to correctly answer questions about Mary’s life.

For example. Charles gives Mary’s birth date as May 4, 1833. We don’t know Mary’s real date of birth, but on the 1900 census, it was given (presumably by her) as October, 1832.[6] Her grave stone shows her age at death as “69 yrs 8 mos & 20 d,” which would give her a birthdate of about August 20, 1833.[7] So, the best we can say about her birthdate is “about 1832 or 1833.”

Charles said that Mary’s father’s name was Samuel Payne and mother’s as “do not know.” It’s possible that Charles was correct, but we can’t rely on this as first-hand information. It’s easy to get names confused unless one knows the individuals in question. Unfortunately, we have to take everything in this section of the certificate with a grain of salt.

The next section of the certificate tells us why Mary died.

(Click on image to enlarge)

This section was completed by a doctor, which means the handwriting can be a challenge. Fortunately, I have a lot of experience reading doctors’ handwriting.

We see the date of death written as May 10, 1903. This is interesting for a couple of reasons. First of all, her grave stone gives the date as May 9. Why the difference? If we read on, the attending physician writes that he last saw Mary alive on May 6th, and that the time of death is documented as twelve o’clock a.m. Did she really die at exactly midnight? I doubt it. What seems more likely to me is that she died sometime on the 9th, then the doctor was called, and he arrived to pronounce her dead sometime around midnight. At any rate, even though the date on the grave stone may be when she actually died, the date on the death certificate is the official date.

Now look closely at the Chief and Immediate causes of death. They are both surprising and sobering. The chief cause of death is listed as Morphinism, and the immediate cause, Starvation. In other words, Mary was addicted to morphine and her addiction had progressed to the point that she was no longer eating, so that she starved to death.

I have a copy of The Principles and Practice of Medicine, written by William Osler, M.D., and published in 1901. Here’s what it has to say about morphinism.

Morphia Habit (Morphinomania; Morphinism). This habit arises from the constant use of morphia—taken at first, as a rule, for the purpose of allaying pain. The craving is gradually engendered, and the habit in this way acquired. … The habit is particularly prevalent among women and physicians who use the hypodermic syringe for the alleviation of pain. … The confirmed opium-eater often presents a very characteristic appearance. There is a sallowness of the complexion which is almost pathognomonic, and he becomes emaciated, gray, and prematurely aged. He is restless, irritable, and unable to remain quiet for any time. … Persons addicted to morphia are inveterate liars, and no reliance whatever can be placed upon their statements. In many instances this is not confined to matters relating to the vice. … Finally a condition of asthenia is induced, in which the victim takes little or no food and dies from the extreme bodily debility.[8]

This last statement appears to be exactly what happened to Mary.

Dr. Osler goes on to say:

The condition is one which has become so common, and is so much on the increase, that physicians should exercise the utmost caution in prescribing morphia … . Under no circumstances should a patient be allowed to use the hypodermic syringe, and it is even safer not to intrust this dangerous instrument to the hands of the nurse.[9]

There is a striking parallel between Mary’s addiction and today’s “opioid crisis.” A recent article in Smithsonian says

By 1895, morphine and opium powders, like OxyContin and other prescription opioids today, had led to an addiction epidemic that affected roughly 1 in 200 Americans. Before 1900, the typical opiate addict in America was an upper-class or middle-class white woman. Today, doctors are re-learning lessons their predecessors learned more than a lifetime ago.[10]

We don’t know how or why Mary became addicted, but there is a decent chance that it was legally prescribed for her at some point. One hundred fifteen years later, our country is still seeking solutions to the problem of opioid addiction.

The attending physician who signed Mary’s death certificate was Otis B. Nesbit, M.D. The 1912 History of Porter County Indiana describes him in these terms: “Possessing an excellent knowledge of the science which he has chosen as a profession, Otis B. Nesbit, M.D., of Valparaiso, has acquired prominence as a physician and built up a most satisfactory patronage in the city and its suburbs.”[11] He received his medical degree in 1902 having previously received a degree as a pharmacist.[12] When Mary died, in 1903, he would have just been building up his practice, and may very well have been the newest physician in town. As such, he might have taken on cases that his colleagues preferred not to deal with, and Mary’s could easily have been such a case.

The final section of the death certificate contains two names of minor historical interest. The place of burial is given as Maple Wood (now Maplewood) cemetery, and the undertaker’s name is F.A. Lepell. A 1902 Valparaiso city directory lists Frank A. LePell as an “undertaker, embalmer and funeral director, also picture frames and mouldings.”[13] Mr. LePell came from a long line of undertakers, originally from Berlin, Germany.[14] His grandfather and father came to Valparaiso in 1842 and “they were the first undertakers and furniture dealers of Porter County.[15]

Under Mr. LePell’s name is the signature of the “Health Officer or Deputy.” Although difficult to make out (doctor’s handwriting again!) this says “A.P. Letherman.” Andrew P. Letherman, M.D. is described as “distinguished not only for his professional knowledge and skill, but as being the longest-established physician in Porter County [in 1912].”[16] Doctor Letherman’s father, also a physician, brought his family to Valparaiso in 1853.[17] His son, A.P., graduated from medical school in 1871, and thence began his own practice in Valparaiso.[18]

As stated in the death certificate, Mary Payne Casbon was buried in Maplewood Cemetery. She has a nice memorial with this inscription: “Sleep on dear Sister and take thy rest/ To call the[e] home God thought it best.”[19] The word Sister has me puzzled. Did Mary have an actual sister living in Valparaiso, or does this simply mean Sister as a term of endearment for a fellow Christian?

(Click on image to enlarge)

[1] Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, Porter County, p. 39 (stamped), Mary P Carbon, 10 May 1903; imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/60716/45232_354312-00338 : accessed 27 April 2018), Certificate >1903 >10, image 339 of 2788; citing Indiana State Board of Health. Death Certificates, 1900–2011, Microfilm, Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Indianapolis.
[2]
Indiana, State Board of Health, Certificate of Death, La Porte County, p. 54 (stamped), Maggie Biederstadt, 30 Apr 1903; imaged as “Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/60716/45232_354308-02082 : accessed 1 May 2018), Certificate >1903 >6, image 2083 of 2771; citing Indiana State Board of Health.
[3]
1900 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, population schedule, Boone Township, enumeration district 79, sheet 13A, p. 13 (stamped), dwelling 315, family 316, Casben, Mary; imaged as “United States Census, 1900,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6QNS-36R?i=25&cc=1325221 : accessed 27 April 2018),  Indiana > Porter > ED 79 Boone Township Hebron town, image 26 of 29; citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 398.
[4]
Weston A. Goodspeed & Charles Blanchard, Counties of Porter and Lake Indiana: Historical and Biographical, Illustrated (Chicago: F.A. Battey & Co., 1882), pp. 257-8; online image, Internet Archive (https://archive.org/stream/countiesofporter00good#page/258/ : accessed 1 May 2018).
[5]
Bumstead’s Valparaiso City and Porter County Business Directory (Chicago: Bumstead & Co., 1902), p. 67; imaged as
“U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2469/11567377#?imageId=11567418  : accessed 1 May 2018), Indiana >Valparaiso >1902 >Valparaiso, Indiana, City Directory, 1902, image 22 of 159.
[6] 1900 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, pop. sched., Boone Township, en. dist. 79, sheet 13A, p. 13, dwell. 315, fam. 316 (stamped), Casben, Mary.
[7] Find A Grave, database with images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/109800943/mary-casbon : accessed 27 April 2018), memorial page for Mary Payne Casbon (1833-1903), ID no. 109800943, created by Alana Knochel Bauman; citing Maplewood Cemetery, Valparaiso, Indiana.
[8] William Osler, M.D., The Principles and Practice of Medicine: Designed for the Use of Practitioners and Students of Medicine, 3d ed. (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1901), p. 384.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Erick Trickey, “Inside the Story of America’s 19th-Century Opiate Addiction,” 4 Jan 18, Smithsonian.com (https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/inside-story-americas-19th-century-opiate-addiction-180967673/ : accessed 1 May 2018).
[11] History of Porter County Indiana: a Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People and its Principal Interests, vol. 2 (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1912), pp. 545-6.; online image, Hathi Trust Digital Library (https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89067919191;view=1up;seq=203 : accessed 28 April 2018).
[12] Ibid, p. 545.
[13] Bumstead’s Valparaiso City and Porter County Business Directory, p. 106; Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2469/11567377#?imageId=11567418 : accessed 1 May 2018 ), image 42 of 159.
[14] Pictorial and Biographical Record of La Porte, Porter, Lake and Starke Counties, Indiana (Chicago: Goodspeed Brothers, 1894), p. 505; online image, Internet Archive (https://archive.org/stream/pictorialbiograp00chic#page/504 : accessed 1 May 2018).
[15] Ibid.
[16] History of Porter County, Indiana, vol. 2, p. 445; Internet Archive (https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89067919191;view=1up;seq=101 : accessed 1 May 2018).
[17] Ibid, p. 446.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Find A Grave, memorial page for Mary Payne Casbon.

Margaret Casbon, 1864–1903

The original title for this post was going to be “What Happened to Margaret?” I was going to write about how female ancestors can be more difficult to trace than males. However, in the course of writing, I came upon new (to me) data sources. With the new information, some more puzzle pieces have slid into place. So now, instead of my original purpose, I will use this post to summarize what I know about Margaret Casbon.

Before I had any records, I knew from word of mouth that James Casbon (~1814–1884) brought a daughter named Margaret with him when he came to Indiana from England in 1870. I was later able to confirm this when I found James’ entry in the 1880 U.S. census.[1]

Detail from 1880 U.S. Census, Porter Township, Porter County, Indiana (Click on image to enlarge)

The census lists James, his wife Mary, Margaret, age 16, Amos, age 10, and Alice, age 8. The careful reader will note that the birthplace for all three children is written as “Ind” for Indiana. In fact, only Alice was born in Indiana. Census reports frequently contain errors, and incorrect birth place is a common one.

In addition to the census, in time, I was able to locate the passenger list of the ship that carried James and his family to America.[2] This also showed that he traveled with Mary, Margaret, and Amos.

Detail from passenger manifest of ship Great Western, upon arrival in New York from Liverpool, England, dated December 27, 1870 (Click on image to enlarge)

You can see that their surname was misspelled as “Custon.” This made locating the passenger list especially challenging! You can also see that Margaret’s age is listed as six. This is consistent with the age given 10 years later in the 1880 census. Therefore, I knew that she was probably born within a year or so of 1864.

Unfortunately, when I tried to find a birth or baptismal record for Margaret, my searches kept coming up with no results. At that point in my research, I still did not know when or where James and Mary had been married, nor did I know Mary’s maiden name. Early this year (2017) I acquired transcripts of various parish records from Cambridgeshire. From these records I learned that James Casben married Mary Jackson in Stretham, Cambridgeshire, October 1866.[3]

But wait, that was two years after Margaret’s presumed birth date! Either the estimated birth year was wrong or Margaret was born before James and Mary became man and wife. This offered a possible explanation why I couldn’t find a birth record for Margaret Casbon. I searched again, this time looking for a birth record for Margaret Jackson. This time I was successful. I learned that Margaret’s birth had been recorded in Ely during the second quarter of 1864.[4]

But was this the right Margaret? To find out, I ordered a copy of the birth registration from the General Register Office (as described in two previous posts). Here is the record I received.[5]

Birth registration of Margaret Jackson (Click on image to enlarge)

Margaret was born in Stretham on March 26, 1864 to Mary Jackson. The father’s name is not given, so presumably Margaret was born out of wedlock. The location, date and mother’s name are all consistent with the information I already had about Margaret and her mother, so I’m confident this is the right birth record.

Margaret was about 2 ½ years old when her mother married James Casbon. Was James her father? There isn’t enough evidence to know for sure. Regardless, she became part of the family. Her brother (or half-brother?) Amos was born when Margaret was 5 years old.

What happened to Margaret after she came to America? I’ll try to answer that with the rest of this post.

First, let’s return to the 1880 census. I need to point out that James’ wife Mary in that census was not Margaret’s mother. Mary (Jackson) Casbon died sometime after their arrival in America, date unknown. James remarried, this time to Mary Payne, in 1876.[6] Margaret lost her mother at a fairly early age. What impact did that have on future events?

It also turns out that the census record shown at the beginning of this post is not the only census entry for Margaret that year.

Detail from 1880 U.S. Census, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana[7] (Click on image to enlarge)
This entry shows “Maggie” Casbon, age 17, listed as “At School” and a boarder in the household of Lucinda Waub, in Valparaiso, Indiana. Maggie is a common diminutive of Margaret. The entry shows that she and her parents were born in England. The age is not quite correct for our Margaret (17 vs. 16), but all the other facts line up. There is no evidence to suggest there was another person with this name in Indiana at the time. Margaret and “Maggie” must be the same person; she was counted twice in the 1880 census.

How did this happen? It turns out that being counted twice in a census is not that uncommon. There are many possible reasons. Census enumerators were instructed to enter “the name of every person whose ‘usual place of abode’ on the 1st day of June, 1880, was in that family.”[8] This instruction created an opportunity for duplications to occur, especially when a person did not reside full-time with their own family. Margaret might have been boarding with Mrs. Waub, but she probably spent weekends and school vacations with her family. The two censuses were recorded by different enumerators, probably on different days. Whatever the reason, Margaret was reported twice.

It’s interesting to me that Margaret was a student and boarding with someone other than her family.  Why was she still a student at age 16, when most girls had no more than an eighth-grade education? My guess is that Margaret was “catching up” from the lack of formal education in England. I think it’s unlikely that James could afford to pay boarding fees. I suspect that he was getting financial support from his brother Thomas, or one of Thomas’ sons, all of whom were well-settled and better off than James.

The first information I had about Margaret’s whereabouts after the 1880 census was this intriguing snippet extracted from the February 9, 1882 Porter County Vidette: “Married – Joseph Quinn – Viola Beard (Baird penciled in); Mrs J. Meyer of Mo.; Died – Wm Dye; Married – Kimberlin – Vita Pennock; Died – Lena Wulf; Maggie Casbum living with Ben Woodard.”[9] What an interesting thing to print in the newspaper! It seems a bit scandalous. Margaret would have been just under 18 years old at the time. [UPDATE, 16 Jan 2020: “living with” did not mean she had an intimate relationship with Ben Woodward. See “More About Maggie.”]

Apparently, the relationship with Ben Woodard did not last long, as revealed by this marriage record from September of the same year.[10]

Marriage record of Samuel Bastel and Margaret Casbon, 16 September 1882, Porter County, Indiana; note that Margaret’s surname is spelled both as Casbon and Caswell in this record; at the bottom of the page is Samuel Bastel’s sworn statement that he is over 21 years old and that Maggie is (just) over 18 (Click on image to enlarge)

How long this marriage lasted is unknown. There is another marriage record of Samuel Bastel to Eva Sharp in 1887.[11] However, there is evidence that more than one man named Samuel Bastel was living in Porter County at the time, so it is unknown whether Margaret and Eva married the same man.

Regardless, it is certain that Margaret and Samuel Bastel did not remain married, since there is another marriage record, to William Biederstadt, dated July 22, 1899.[12]

Marriage record of William Biederstadt and Maggie Casbon, 22 July 1899, Porter County, Indiana; note that the certificate of marriage section has not been completed (Click on image to enlarge)

The fact that “Maggie’s” name was given as Casbon and not Bastel makes me think that her previous marriage was short lived. But, there is a gap of almost 17 years between the two marriages, and Margaret’s whereabouts during that time are a mystery. The 1890 census records were lost in a fire, so they cannot be used to locate her. There is a family story that she might have become a “mail-order bride” in Seattle, but I’ve found no evidence to support or deny that.

I should also point out that Margaret’s father (or step-father?), James, was murdered in 1884.[13] So, by the age of 20, she had lost both parents. It’s unknown what kind of relationship she had with her step-mother or with her brother Amos and sister Alice, both of whom were quite a few years younger.

At this point in my research, the information I had about Margaret was clouded in uncertainty. Because of the incomplete marriage certification, it was unclear to me whether Margaret and William Biederstadt had actually been married. My confusion was compounded by the fact that I could not find Margaret in the 1900 census. I found an entry for William Biederstadt in nearby Michigan City, but in that record, he is listed as being single, and living in his parents’ household.[14]

I should add that I also I had a possible death record for Margaret. The record was only a brief extract, showing that Maggie Biederstedt, age 31, died in Michigan City April 30, 1903.[15] The extract did not include the name of her husband or parents. Was this the same Maggie who married William? The age was wrong – Margaret would have been 39 in April 1903. I needed stronger evidence before I could say that Margaret Casbon and this Maggie Biederstedt were the same person.

The breakthrough came when I located the death certificate on Ancestry (when I was well into writing this post).[16]

Image of Maggie Biederstedt’s death certificate, Michigan City, La Porte County, Indiana (Click on image to enlarge)

The certificate confirm’s that Maggie’s Biederstedt’s husband was named William. It gives her date of birth as January 1, 1872. This is significantly different than Margaret Casbon’s confirmed birth year of 1864. However, the birthplace is correctly shown as England. The incorrect birth date is puzzling, but given the fact that her father’s name is given as Casborn (also from England), there can be little doubt that this was Margaret Casbon. Note that William Biederstedt was the informant for the death certificate. “Don’t Know” is written for Margaret’s mother’s name. This isn’t surprising given that her mother had died more than twenty years earlier. The cause of death was “Uterine Carcinoma Duration Indefinite” (I’m not sure about the last word – doctors’ handwriting was no better then than it is now). The disease took her at a young age.

Given the knowledge that Margaret really was married to William Biederstadt, I decided to try to find her in the 1900 census one more time. Reasoning that the surname might have been misspelled or transcribed incorrectly, I searched in FamilySearch [link] for Maggie, no last name, born between 1862 and 1873 in England, residing in Indiana, with husband’s first name William. This search yielded 12 names, one of which caught my eye. It was for Maggie Reedlstead, born January 1873, and living in Michigan City.[17]

Detail from 1900 Census, Michigan City, La Porte County, Indiana (Click on image to enlarge)

If you examine the census entry closely, you can see that the first letter of the surname is really a “B,” with an incomplete bottom loop (compare to “Peters” a few lines above). In addition, the spelling has been mangled pretty badly, looking something like “Beedlstear.” Census enumerators weren’t hired for the spelling ability (or handwriting!), and once that’s understood, it’s fairly easy to see that this is the correct census record for William and Maggie Biederstadt.

There are two discrepancies in Maggie’s entry: her birth date, January 1873, and her year of immigration, 1880. There may be an innocent reason why the birth date is wrong, but the fact that her husband also gave an incorrect birth date on the death certificate makes me wonder if Margaret led him to believe she was younger than her true age. Since the claimed year of birth was later than the actual year she immigrated (1870) to America, it would only make sense to change this date as well.

The census shows that William and Maggie Biederstadt were childless in 1900. I haven’t found any evidence that they had children before Maggie’s death. Nor have I found any records suggesting that Margaret had children while married to Samuel Bastel.

“What Happened to Margaret?” is still a valid question, but unless new records turn up or a distant cousin can help fill in the blanks, this is as close as I can come to an answer.

[1] 1880 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, population schedule, Porter Township, enumeration district 144, p. 545 (stamped), sheet C, dwelling 187, family 191, Casbon, James; imaged as “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9YYY-9KW6?i=18&cc=1417683 : accessed 4 July 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 305.
[2] Passenger manifest of ship Great Western, unnumbered p. 3, lines 27-30, James Custon (age 57) and family; imaged as “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939V-51S2-X5?i=106&cc=1849782 : accessed 10 November 2016), image 107; citing NARA microfilm publication M237, Roll 338.
[3] “Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952,” PDF extract, database,  Cambridge Family History Society (https://www.cfhs.org.uk/tokens/tokpub.cfm : downloaded 2 September 2017), >Casben >Stretham >Stretham Marriages 1558 – 1952, James Casben & Mary Jackson, 3 Nov 1866; citing Stretham (Cambridgeshire) parish records.
[4] “England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2XM7-VHC : 1 October 2014), Margaret Jackson, 2d qtr, 1864; from “England & Wales Births, 1837-2006,” database, findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : 2012); citing Birth Registration, Ely, Cambridgeshire, vol. 3B: 551, line 124.
[5] England, birth registration (PDF copy) for Margaret Jackson, born 26 Mar 1864; registered April quarter 1864, Ely district 3B/551, Haddenham Sub-district, Cambridgeshire; General Register Office, Southport.
[6] Porter County, Indiana, Marriage Records, vol. 4: 348, James Casbon/Mary Payne, 15 Jan 1876; image copy, “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GTM4-RLH?i=241&cc=1410397 : accessed 24 October 2015); citing Porter County; FHL microfilm 1,686,156.
[7] 1880 U.S. Census, Porter County, Indiana, population schedule, Valparaiso, enumeration district 140, p. 486 (stamped), dwelling 649, family 663, Maggie Casbon in household of Lucinda Waub; imaged as “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9YYY-92Q6?i=82&cc=1417683 : accessed 1 December 2017); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 305.
[8] “1880 Census Instructions to Enumerators,” United States Census Bureau (https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/decennial-census/technical-documentation/questionnaires/1880/1880-instructions.html : accessed 5 December 2017).
[9] Kaye Griffiths, compiler, “Genealogical Notes from the Porter Vidette, April 7, 1881 – Sept. 14, 1882,” (typescript, 1983), listed as Volume 5 – 3 parts, no. G977.298; Genealogy Department, Porter County Public Library, Valparaiso.
[10] Porter County, Indiana, “Marriage Record 7, July 1882 – Oct 1885,” p. 39 (stamped), Samuel Bastel/Maggie Coswell ( also spelled “Casbon,” same document), 16 Sep 1882; “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33S7-9TMB-J83?i=49&cc=1410397 : 21 January 2016), Porter > 1882-1885 Volume 7 > image 50 of 349; County clerk offices, Indiana.
[11] “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KDHQ-3K8 : 4 November 2017), Samuel Bastel and Eva Sharp, 08 Jan 1887; citing Porter, Indiana, United States, various county clerk offices, Indiana; FHL microfilm 1,686,210.
[12] Porter County, Indiana, “Marriage Record 12, Nov. 1898 – Oct. 1901,” p. 103 (stamped), William Biederstadt/Maggie Casbon, 22 Jul 1899; “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GR15-W5H?cc=1410397&wc=Q83F-4HT%3A963055701%2C963108501 : 21 January 2016), image 104 of 328; County clerk offices, Indiana.
[13] Jon Casbon, “James Casbon of Meldreth, England and Porter County, Indiana,” blog entry, Our Casbon Journey (https://casbonjourney.wordpress.com/2016/11/29/james-casbon-of-meldreth-england-and-porter-county-indiana/ : accessed 6 December 2017).
[14] “United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MM1Y-HRY : accessed 6 December 2017), William Biederstadt in household of John Biederstadt, Michigan Township, LaPorte, Indiana; citing enumeration district (ED) 55, sheet 14A, family 284, NARA microfilm publication T623.
[15] “Indiana Death Index, 1882-1920,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VZ77-2Y6 : 3 December 2014), Maggie Biederstedt, 30 Apr 1903, Mich City, Indiana; from “Indiana Deaths, 1882-1920,” database, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : 2003); citing Indiana Works Progress Administration, book CSS-2, County Health Office, Laporte.
[16] “Death Certificates, 1899-2011,” database with images, Ancestry Library Edition (accessed through participating libraries : 5 December 2017), certificate image, Maggie Biederstedt, 30 Apr 1903, La Porte County, Indiana, record no. 54; imaged from Indiana Archives and Records Administration, Death Certificates, 1903, roll 06.
[17] 1900 U.S. census, La Porte County, Indiana, population schedule, MIchigan City, enumeration district 65, p. 314 (stamped on preceding page), sheet 4B, 702 York, dwelling 71, family 74, William Reedlstead; imaged as”United States Census, 1900,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-D4L3-KG9?i=7&cc=1325221 : 5 August 2014); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 384

Origins: The Earliest Ancestors from Littleport

Reader be forewarned! This is one of those strict genealogy posts – all names & dates – no interesting stories. I won’t be offended if you decide to pass on this one. With this post, I intend to summarize my research into the origins of what I have called the “Peterborough Casbons”, so named because the family eventually settled in that area, and members of the family remain there today.

In an earlier post (see “How doth your garden grow? Part 1”) I described how Thomas Casborn (~1776–1855) left Littleport, Cambridgeshire, and how his son Thomas (~1807–1863) settled in Peterborough, where he had a gardening business. Working backwards, I traced “1776 Thomas” back one generation to his father Thomas (see “Stepping Back: Thomas Casborn of Littleport (~1732-1780)”). Here is a diagram of the sequence I just described.

3 generations of descendants
3 generations of Casbons, from Littleport & Peterborough (Click on image to enlarge)

Now I’ll start with Thomas (~1732-1780)”) and work my way back. His baptismal record of October 15, 1832 shows that his parents were Thomas and Anne Caseborne.[1]

Detail from LIttleport (Cambridgeshire) parish register, Baptisms, 1732; “Thomas of Thomas & Anne Caseborne _ _ (October) 15” (Click on image to enlarge)

Who were Thomas & Anne? The Bishop’s Transcripts of 1720 show the marriage of Thomas Casebourne and Anne Kendale on October 6th.[2]

Detail from Bishop’s Transcripts, Littleport, Marriages 1820; “Thomas Casebourne & Anne Kendale October 6” (Click on image to enlarge)

Looking further back, there is a baptismal record for Thomas Casborne, son of William & Alice, May 29, 1695.[3] He is the most likely candidate for the Thomas who married Anne Kendale, and father of Thomas (b. ~1832). I have not found a baptismal record for Anne.

Besides Thomas, there are records of six other children born to Thomas and Anne: William (baptized 1721), Elizabeth (1722), Mary (1727), Abraham (1729, died 1734), another Mary (1734), and another Abraham (1739).[4],[5],[6],[7],[8],[9],[10] Anne’s death is recorded in 1750, and Thomas’s in 1751.[11],[12] You can also see that Thomas’s burial record gives his occupation as “Labourer”

Detail from Bishop’s Transcripts, Littleport, burials 1751; “Thomas Casborne, Labourer.—Sept:r 27” Note that his son William’s burial is the next entry, on October 13th (Click on image to enlarge)

Here is a family tree of Thomas and Anne (Kendale) Caseborne, showing their relationship to the Peterborough Casbons.

(Click on image to enlarge)

I’m able to trace this family back one more generation. As mentioned above, Thomas (baptized 1695) was the son of William and Alice. There are baptismal records for three other children born to William and Alice: William (baptized 1687), Alice (1592), and John (1699).[13],[14],[15] There may have been a fourth child, Mary, for whom there is a burial record on the same day as John in 1699, but no baptismal record.[16]

Who were William and Alice? I don’t know. I can’t find a marriage record for them, nor can I find a baptismal record for William. There are no baptisms, marriages or burials with the Casb___ surname recorded in Littleport between 1620 (burial of Robert Casborn, widower) and 1687 (baptism of William – see previous paragraph).[17]

Here is a family tree of William and Alice, the earliest generation I have been able to trace back from the Peterborough Casbons.

Wm d 1699 fam tree

Where did this family come from before William? It’s impossible for me to say. There are Casb(*) records in nearby Ely and Stuntney, but not enough information to make familial connections.

Detail of 1945 Ordnance Survey map showing Littleport and Ely (This work is based on data provided through http://www.VisionofBritain.org.uk and uses historical material which is copyright of the
Great Britain Historical GIS Project and the University of Portsmouth) (Click on image to enlarge)

I’ve said before that there is no evidence that the Peterborough Casbons, hence the Littleport Casborns, are related to my branch, the “Meldreth Casbons.” It’s still fascinating to me that the many variants of our surname are concentrated so heavily in the part of England known as East Anglia. Perhaps there was a common ancestor many generations before, or maybe there was just a common reason for so many people to have the same name (see “a term of reproach …”). Would DNA be able to help sort this out?

[1] LIttleport Parish (Cambridgeshire, England), Bishop’s Transcripts 1599–1832, unnumbered page (image 271) showing baptisms, 1732, Thomas Caseborne, 15 October; browsable images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3QS7-892X-HQHF?i=270&cat=976859 : accessed 15 September 2016); citing Family History Library (FHL) microfilm 2,206,070, (unnumbered) item 1.
[2] LIttleport Parish (Cambridgeshire), Bishop’s Transcripts 1599–1832, unnumbered page (image 253) showing marriages, 1720, Thomas Casebourne & Anne Kendale, 6 October.
[3] LIttleport, Bishop’s Transcripts 1599–1832, unnumbered page (image 201), baptisms, 1695, Thomas Caseborn, 7 July.
[4] LIttleport, Bishop’s Transcripts 1599–1832, unnumbered page (image 253), baptisms, 1720/21, William Casebourne, 9 March.
[5] LIttleport Bishop’s Transcripts 1599–1832, unnumbered page (image 256), baptisms, 1722, Elizabeth Casebourne, 16 December.
[6] LIttleport, Bishop’s Transcripts 1599–1832, unnumbered page (image 263), baptisms, 1727, Mary Caseborne, 10 September.
[7] LIttleport, Bishop’s Transcripts 1599–1832, unnumbered page (image 267), baptisms, 1729, Abraham Caseborne, 21 December.
[8] LIttleport, Bishop’s Transcripts 1599–1832, unnumbered page (image 276), burials, 1734, Abraham Caseborne, 3 December.
[9] LIttleport, Bishop’s Transcripts 1599–1832, unnumbered page (image 275), baptisms, 1734, Mary Caseborne, 2 August.
[10] LIttleport, Bishop’s Transcripts 1599–1832, unnumbered page (image 281), baptisms, 1738/39, Abraham Caseborne, 14 February.
[11] LIttleport, Bishop’s Transcripts 1599–1832, unnumbered page (image 305), burials, 1750, Ann Casborne, 20 May.
[12] LIttleport, Bishop’s Transcripts 1599–1832, unnumbered page (image 307), burials, 1751, Thomas Casborne, 27 September.
[13] LIttleport, Bishop’s Transcripts 1599–1832, unnumbered page (image 194), baptisms, 1687, William Casborne, 4 November.
[14] LIttleport, Bishop’s Transcripts 1599–1832, unnumbered page (image 199), baptisms, 1692, Alice Casborne, 26 March.
[15] LIttleport, Bishop’s Transcripts 1599–1832, unnumbered page (image 213), baptisms, 1699, John Casebourne, 14 May.
[16] LIttleport, Bishop’s Transcripts 1599–1832, unnumbered page (image 213), burials, 1699, Mary Casebourne, 20 August.
[17] LIttleport, Bishop’s Transcripts 1599–1832, unnumbered page (image 47), burials, 1619/20, Robert Casborne, 29 February.

James Casbon in the 1880 U.S. Census, Porter Township, Porter County, Indiana

James Casbon (abt. 1813—1884) was the subject of an earlier post. He is the common ancestor to many Casbon descendants, both in the United States and United Kingdom. Because of his relatively short time in America, there are few records about his life here. He only appears in one U.S. Census, that of 1880, since he arrived to the U.S. in late 1870 (after the census was completed) and died in 1884.

Page from the 1880 U.S. Census, Porter Township, Porter County, Indiana. Source: 1880 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, population schedule, enumeration district 144, p. 545 (stamped), p. 19C (penned), dwelling 187, family 191, James Casbon; database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : accessed 24 December 2015), Indiana > Porter > Porter > image 19 of 20 (Click on image to enlarge)

What can we learn from this record? First it tells us that James was living in Porter township, one of thirteen townships in Porter County.

1876 Map of Porter County showing townships. Porter township is outlined in red; Source: A.G. Hardesty, Illustrated historical atlas of Porter County, Indiana, Valparaiso, Ind.: A.G. Hardesty, 1876, p. 22; online images, Library of Congress (https://www.loc.gov/item/2007626934/ : accessed 2 March 2016) (Click on image to enlarge)

The census does not tell us exactly where in the township James was living. The other names on the census page show us who his neighbors were, but not where they were located. His brother Thomas Casbon, nephew Charles Casbon, and niece Mary Ann (Casbon) Priest were also living in Porter township, but apparently not in the same general area, based on their being several pages distant in the census record.

The members of James’ family include his wife Mary, daughter Margaret, son Amos, and daughter Alice. His wife was the former Mary Payne, whom he married January, 1876, in Porter County.[1] I’ve speculated that she might be the same Mary Payne who emigrated from England in 1856 with Mary Casbon (see “From England to Indiana, Part 8” [link]). If so, she would have been from James’ home town of Meldreth, Cambridgeshire, the niece of James’ sister in law, Emma (Scruby) Casbon. In favor of this possibility is the fact that Mary’s birthplace (and that of her parents) is recorded as England on the census form. Against it is her recorded age of 53, which would give her a birth year of about 1827. The Mary Payne from Meldreth was born about 1833, based on her ages recorded in the 1841 and 1851 England censuses.[2],[3] Ages in census records are notoriously inaccurate, so this discrepancy is not a big concern. Not only that, but Mary’s age in the 1900 U.S. census is listed as 68, with her month & year of birth listed as October 1832.[4] This jives very well with the data for Mary Payne of Meldreth.

James’ daughter Margaret is recorded as 16 years old. This would give her a birth year of about 1864. This matches her estimated age from the passenger list when she arrived in America in 1870.[5] Her place of birth is incorrectly recorded as Indiana. I haven’t been able to locate birth or baptismal records for Margaret in England. Margaret’s fate is a bit of a mystery: a family story suggests that she became a “mail-order bride” and went to Seattle, Washington.

Son Amos was 10 years old, also born in England. His birthplace is also incorrectly recorded. Of Amos I will have much to say in future posts. Likewise with daughter Alice, who was born in Porter County in 1871.[6]

Note James’ occupation of “Farm Laborer.” This indicates he did not own or farm his own land. As I mentioned in the earlier post about James, every indication is that he was a poor hard-working man. The newspaper articles describing his death indicate he was working as a ditch digger at the time.

Finally, note the marks on the census form under the column “Cannot write.” This is marked for both James and Mary (but not marked for “Cannot read”). This is a reminder of their humble backgrounds and the lack of educational opportunities for people in their class when they were growing up in England.

[1] Porter County, Indiana Marriage Records, vol. 4: 348, James Casbon–Mary Payne, 15 Jan 1876; image, “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:33SQ-GTM4-RLH?i=241&cc=1410397 : accessed 24 October 2015); citing Porter County; FHL microfilm 1,686,156.
[2] “1841 England, Scotland and Wales census,” database and images, findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : accessed 14 August 2016), entry for Mary Pain (age 8), Chiswic End, Meldreth, Cambridgeshire, England; citing The National Archives, PRO HO 107, piece 63, folio 10, p. 15.
[3] “1851 England, Scotland and Wales census,” database and images, findmypast (http://www.findmypast.com : accessed 24 July 2016), entry for Mary Payne (age 18), M in Meldreth, Melbourn, Hertfordshire, England; citing The National Archives, PRO HO 107, piece 1708, folio 209, p. 34.
[4] 1900 U.S. census, Porter County, Indiana, population schedule, enumeration district 79, p. 13B, dwelling 315, family 316, Mary Casben; database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-6QNS-36R?i=25&cc=1325221 : accessed 4 July 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T623; FHL microfilm 1,240,398.
[5] “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891,”images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939V-51S2-X5?i=106&cc=1849782 : accessed 10 November 2016), manifest, Great Western, 27 Dec 1870, n.p., line 29, Margret Custon, age 6, > image 107 of 341; citing NARA microfilm publication M237.
[6] “Michigan Death Certificates, 1921-1952”, database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KF41-L5D : accessed 21 February 2017), Alice Edwards Hicks, 15 Mar 1950; citing Three Oaks, Berrien, Michigan, United States, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, Lansing; FHL microfilm 1,973,189.

James Casbon of Meldreth, England and Porter County, Indiana

Since I started this blog, I’ve been trying to lay down a framework showing the origins of the major Casbon lines, i.e., those lines from which most of today’s Casbons are descended. So far I’ve covered the Littleport/Peterborough Casbons, the descendants of Thomas Casbon of Meldreth, a little bit about the Australian Casbens, and the origins of the Casban line with Samuel Clark Casban. No discussion of Casbon family history would be complete without the subject of today’s post, James Casbon. He is my 4th great uncle, which means he is the brother of my 3rd great grandfather (Thomas Casbon).

This is the only photo I’ve ever seen of James. (Courtesy of Ron D Casbon)

James Casbon has puzzled, challenged, and intrigued me for a number of years. He is the only Casbon I know of who came to America but still has descendants both in England and the United States. There are relatively few records about his life. Every indication is that his life had many hardships. He faced the challenges of poverty and lack of education while trying to make a better life for his family.

James was the youngest son of Isaac Casbon (see From England to Indiana, Part 2), born in either 1813 or 1814. [1] I’ve searched meticulously for his baptismal records without success. There were no requirements for vital records at the time. Most births were documented when someone was baptized – but not everyone was baptized.

Isaac, James’ father, was an agricultural laborer; i.e., he worked for wages when work was available. Isaac died in 1825 when James was no more than 12 years old. [2] James probably had no other choice than going to work to help support his family.

The first record I have of James is his marriage to Elizabeth Waller July 25th, 1835 in Meldreth. I’ve used this record as an example before, to show that James signed with “his mark.” [3]

(Click on image to enlarge)

Elizabeth was born September 1815 in Meldreth, one of eight children born to William and Sarah (Johnson) Waller. Her father’s occupation was “Labourer.” [4]

One thing James never had difficulty with was having children. By 1841, he and Elizabeth had three: William (born about 1836), Sarah (born about 1837), and Lydia Ann (born about 1840). [5] By 1851, another four had been born: Mary (baptized 1841), Thomas (born 1844), George (born 1846), and John (born 1849). [6]

Their last child, Emma, was baptized in August 1852 (but possibly born late 1851, based on her reported age at death). [7] Her mother Elizabeth was buried less than 1 week later. [8] One relative told me that she believes Emma went into a foundling home, because James had no way to care for an infant. This is supported by parish records showing Emma’s abode as the Royston Workhouse when she died in November 1853. [9]

Burial record of Emma Casbon, 8 November 1853 (Click on image to enlarge)

After Elizabeth’s death, James was left with a household of eight children, ranging in age from infancy to age 16, so it would be understandable if he gave the youngest up to the care of others.

After Emma’s death, the document trail goes cold until James’ arrival in America. He doesn’t appear in the 1861 England census. (1 Nov 2018: see updates here and here.) According to family tradition James married either Mary Cooper or Mary Harper while still in England. Records of this marriage have not been found. James and Mary had three more children: Margaret (born about 1864), [10] Amos James (born 1869), [11] and Alice Ann (or Alice Hannah – born 1871 in Porter County, Indiana). [12]

Thanks to a copy of James’ naturalization certificate given to me by Ron Casbon, I was recently able to pin down the date and name of the ship upon which James and his family arrived in the United States. [13]

James Casbon’s naturalization certificate, 3 October 1876 (Click on image to enlarge)

The certificate says that James departed Liverpool and arrived in New York on December 26th, 1871. I suspected the year was incorrect because his daughter Alice was born in Indiana in January 1871. After a bit of detective work, I was able to find this passenger list for the ship Great Western that departed Liverpool November 11th and arrived in New York December 27th, 1870. [14] You can see that his name was misspelled as Custon. You can also see that his second wife Mary was 20 years his junior.

Passenger list of the ship Great Western, 27 December 1870 (Click on image to enlarge)

James made his way to Indiana and settled in Porter Township, Porter County. I doubt that he could afford to buy land, as his occupation was listed as “Farm Laborer” in the 1880 census. [15]

His wife Mary died, probably in 1874 or 1875. He married Mary Payne in January, 1876. [16] She is possibly the same Mary Payne who was a niece of Emma (Scruby) Casbon, the wife of Thomas, James’ brother (see From England to Indiana, Part 8), but this is only speculation on my part.

James died August 22, 1884, from complications of an injury sustained in an unprovoked assault (See The Collage Explained). [17] His widow, Mary, was left with two step-children, Alice and Amos, ages 13 and 15, respectively (Margaret married in 1882). Mary died in 1903, and is buried in Maplewood Cemetery, Valparaiso, Indiana. [18]

James’ legacy today is in the many descendants living in both England and the United States. They are a testament to his struggles and endurance.

[1] “England and Wales Census, 1851.” FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:SGBL-24P [accessed 11 November 2015]
[2] Church of England, “Parish Registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” Burials 1825. FHL microfilm #1040542
[3] Church of England, “Bishop’s transcripts for Meldreth, 1599-1862,” Marriages 1835. FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C9T9-NXJM?i=340&cat=1108704 [accessed 20 May 2016]
[4] Church of England, “Bishop’s transcripts for Meldreth, 1599-1862” FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:3Q9M-C9T9-N6C5?i=426&cat=1108704 [accessed 1 October 2015]
[5] “England and Wales Census, 1841.” FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MQR8-NWB [accessed 12 July 2016]
[6] “England and Wales Census, 1851.”
[7] Church of England, “Parish Registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” Baptisms 1852.
[8] Church of England, “Parish Registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” Burials 1852.
[9] Church of England, “Parish Registers for Meldreth, 1681-1877,” Burials 1853.
[10] “United States Census, 1880.” FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MHS7-4N2 [accessed 4 July 2016]
[11] “England and Wales Birth Registration Index, 1837-2008.” FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2X7G-YF3 [accessed 12 September 2015]
[12] “Mrs Alice Hicks Dies Following Lingering Illness,” Vidette Messenger, Valparaiso, Indiana. The Newspaper Archive Academic Library Edition http://ezproxy.ppld.org:2083/us/indiana/valparaiso/valparaiso-vidette-messenger/1950/03-16/page-6 [accessed 6 August 2016]
[13] Personal collection of Ron D Casbon
[14] “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1891,” FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:939V-51S2-X5?i=106&cc=1849782 [accessed 10 November 2016]
[15] “United States Census, 1880.” FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MHS7-4N2 [accessed 4 July 2016]
[16] “Indiana Marriages, 1811-2007,” FamilySearch https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KDH3-B7L [accessed 24 October 2015]
[17] “Murder! That is About what is Made out of the Case of Old Man Casbon.” Copy of Porter County Vidette article published 28 August 1884, from personal collection of Ron D Casbon
[18] “Mary P. Casbon.” Find A Grave Memorial# 109800943. Find A Grave http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=109800943 [accessed 4 July 2016]